You may have heard the term French B2 from your teacher, other students or even potentially on a job advert, where a particular company is looking for a French-speaking individual who is at least at the B2 level as far as language proficiency is concerned.
If you can speak French at a language level of B2, then it means you are an advanced-intermeidate speaker. You have progressed beyond the initial beginner stages of the language and you can hold a reasonable conversation with native-speakers, but you are not yet considered fluent.
What are the different French language levels?
There are six main categories of proficiency when it comes to your mastery of the French language. Actually, not just the French language, but any. This makes it easy to know what level any individual is at, at any time, in any language – and it’s a globally accepted standard.
The laguage proficiency levels are split between A, B & C – and in each of these levels you have 1 & 2, where C is the most advanced and 2, in each case, is a higher level than 1. Therefore (graph needed):
- A1: Beginner – you’ll understand only the very basics at this level and similarly when speaking, you’ll be able to introduce yourself and your family/friends. You’ll be able to write a simple postcard.
- A2: Beginner – you’ll be able to understand other areas of daily life, such as shopping, personal information and information about your line of work. You’ll be able to speak about frequent tasks and talk about familiar subjects. Short exchanges of conversation will be possible although your vocabularly will be too limited to go far with this. Your writing skills will include notes and messages and slightly more complex letters.
- B1: Intermediate – you’ll be able to understand most of the conversations used in day-to-day work and other aspects of life such as school and social activities. Radio or TV programmes are starting to become more understandable at this level. As far as spoken French is concerned, you’ll be able to handle most environments now in places where French is spoken. You’ll be able to write personal letters relating to your own experiences.
- B2: Intermediate – complex discussions are now understandable and at this level, you’ll be able to follow most French TV news programmes and other productions in standard dialect. You’ll be able to converse more naturally with native speakers and engage in normal converstations comfortably. You’ll be able to write in French relating to a broad range of subjects.
- C1: Advanced – comprehension of complex conversations is possible and all TV should be understood without too much difficulty. Your speaking skills will be close to fluent and you’ll be able to construct dialogues as you wish in real-time.
- C2: Advanced – Any kind of spoken French is now achievable, you’ll be able to read all types of written French and can express yourself, about any subject, fluently.
Depending on what type of person you are, you’ll either be bothered about the above and use it as motivation to progress through the different levels – or, it simply won’t matter and you’ll just learn as much as you need and to the level that you want!
What level of French would I need for a French-speaking job?
If you search for this specific question online you’ll get a fair few different responses and if truth be told, it depends on quite a few factors. To give you an obvious example, if your French colleagues speak excellent English, then you could get away with even A1 or A2-level knowledge.
It would make sense, if you really wanted to fit in, that your knowledge equates to the intermediate, ‘B’ level. That way, you will be able to contribute to discussions in French and it would certainly help with integrating into their conversations without having to ask them to translate.
Of course, you will find that being emmersed with French-speaking colleagues, your own skill-level will improve dramatically. However, if you rely on them to speak in English all the time, you’ll be missing out on a golden opportunity to improve.
How long would it take to get to French B2 level?
The question around how long it will take to achieve a certain level in French is probably the most common question we get – and it’s a good one. I asked it initially a lot myself!
You’ll see a spread of numbers when you search this online, but having traveled this journey myself, I think a fair estimate is ~650 hours. However there are many variables involved, such as:
- What your initial level was in French.
- How well you understand grammar in your native language.
- How quickly you can absorb new information.
- Your approach to learning (spending 650 hours on Duolingo will not get you there for example).
- How many hours a day you can commit to learning, often and little is better than sporadic and a lot.
- Your motivation.
So, if we assume you’re putting in just one hour a day, including weekends, then that would equate of course to 650 days, or a couple of months short of two years.
For me, my initial level was zero – I knew next to nothing. I also had pretty poor grammar in English, and although this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to learn French, it means it may take just a little longer!
As far as absorbing new information is concerned, only you can know this but I’m certainly not anything special in this area. In fact, I’ve spent the last week trying to remember the phrase, “Ce n’est pas étonnant” (which means, ‘it’s not surprising’).
For some reason, the word ‘étonnant’, which means, ‘amazing/astonishing/surprising, etc.’ just doesn’t sink in! My point here is that it’s completely normal to have stumbling blocks, you’ve just got to push through them.
Is French B2 level as good as native-speakers?
Although being able to speak at a B2 level in French is very good, it’s still a long way from being fluent! That’s not a bad thing, it’s just the truth. However, you will be able to have a conversation with a native-speaking French person and you will definitely understand most of what’s being said (as long as they don’t speak too quickly!).
At the French B2 level, you’re a long way past the basics. You’ll be able to form opinions, negotiate and explain things in a good level of detail.
To give you the perfect example of why the French B2 level is regarded so highly, consider this. Universities in French would allow you to enter their universities if you have passed this exam. I think that says it all really. If you can get to this level, you will know enough to be able to get by.
Where you might struggle is listening to native French-conversations. They speak very fast. If you’ve listened to any French radio, you may have already encountered this. It’s very demoralising as you wonder how you can ever get to the point where you can understand what’s being said! It will take time but you’ll start to pick out more and more words that you understand over time.
Conclusion – what is the French B2 level?
So, there you go – if you can get to the French B2 level then you’re in a very good position! You’ll be able to watch most French television and follow films in French without the need for subtitles in English. You’ll be able to speak to native French-speaking people and you’ll be able to write in French about many things.
Having a goal of acquiring the French B2 level is a great goal and for all beginners should be something to aspire to – it was for me!